Bloomington considers annexing land for new soccer complex

A youth soccer complex that would replace Community Fields in Bloomington is ready for the city’s review.

The Bloomington Planning Commission will consider a request on Wednesday to annex 55 acres of land at the former Sale Barn site and build eight soccer fields. FC Central Illinois has been searching for land for new soccer fields for years because it will lose access to Community Fields because the complex is too close to Central Illinois Regional Airport, based on Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.

The club had designs on building a 100-acre sports complex in north Normal that could host regional events but had to scrap those plans after fundraising stalled during the coronavirus pandemic and some early supporters withdrew their pledges.

Jeremy Kelley is secretary of the soccer club. Kelley said two of the fields will have artificial turf and more turf fields could be added depending on fundraising. He said the club hopes to start installing new grass and turf this spring so the fields could be ready by the fall.

“We fully understand we need to make this happen,” Kelley said. “People will be excited when they see the dirt start to move. We are working as hard as we can get to that point.”

Kelley said the club recently hosted an open house to enable nearby residents to review plans and address any concerns. The complex is across the street from a residential area.

Kelley said the complex is designed to keep field lighting, noise and traffic away from people who live nearby and will avoid late night games to limit disruptions the neighborhood.

“Any time you have a project like this, you are going to have some people that might not be on board. We understand that,” Kelley explained. “We are trying to be as good a neighbor as we can and make it so it’s a win for everybody.”

City staff has endorsed the club’s plans and recommends the commission approve.

Kelley estimates the project will cost $2.5 million, but the scope will depend on fundraising. He said the club has had little time to fundraise during the planning stage, but he said he hopes donors will be more willing to give to the project once they see it develop.

Annexation is required because the 55 acres off West Hamilton Road are not in Bloomington city limits, even though much of the area surrounding is within the city. Kelley said the club originally pursued permitting through McLean County government but found out the property has to be in the city to access city water and sewer hookups.

If the annexation is approved, the planning commission would consider zoning the area B-1 (general commercial). The plans would also need approval from the Bloomington City Council. That could come later this month.

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